Aqualand info on Phractocephalus hemioliopterus
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Origins: Apparently you can find these red-tailed Brazilian flatheads in much of the Amazon and its tributaries. They call them mighty tasty pirararas locally. They use pirañhas for bait.
Name: Phracto = flat, cephalus = head, hem = red, pterus = fin. Or red-tailed flathead. Same as our local flatheads plus a red tail and a less finicky appetite. Our flatheads eat only live fish. Red-tail catfish fish eat ‘em dead or alive (or plastic).
In the Wild: Red-tail catfish eat crabs and fruits.
Foods in Captivity: Not known as picky eaters, red-tail catfish love fish, worms, and crustaceans (which bring out their reds). They also eat enough pellets to bulge their bellies if given the opportunity. Large red-tails also eat rocks and can apparently spit them out at will.
Occasional Fasts. Any critter that “carbo-loads” at every meal needs an occasional meal off. Give him a meatless Friday and let his digestive system catch up. He’ll start swimming around when he gets hungry again.
Water: Any water close to neutral works. Red-tail catfish need frequent water changes because of their massive food intake.
Grows Huge: The cute two-inch red-tail catfish you bought grows to three or four feet – 18-inches in the first year. They live for 15 years.
Housing: You can start a red-tail catfish in a ten. You soon need a 55 and way on up.
Security: Small red-tail catfish will spend their days hiding in caves. As they grow, they need no security.
Friendly: Red-tails make great pets. They quickly learn to eat from your fingers. Start by feeding them in the evenings. They also put up with being petted. We don’t recommend this, however they seem to like rubbing against your hand.
Bad Substrates: Don’t put a lot of marbles or rocks on the bottom. Red-tail catfish will eat anything swallowable. What else would you expect from a critter that swallows crabs whole?
Mixers? Not many other fish will mix with these critters -- especially smaller fishes. Asian red-tail catfish tend to beat up South American catfishes of the same size.
Temperature: As you might extrapolate from a fish that lives in the world’s second longest river, red-tail catfish adapt to a wide temperature range.
Breeding: No breeding reports yet. Here’s the way I’d do it … I'd give an Asian fish farmer 10 red-tail catfish. Then come back in five years to pick up half the babies.
Shedding? Red-tail catfish exude a mucous film occasionally. It reminds you of caecilian worms in this respect. You need to remove crud like this.
Fights: Some keepers of red-tail catfish say the big ones fight. We’ve seen some lunkers in zoos getting along just fine. Still, one flathead is better than two flatheads. Two would eat you out of house AND home. One would just eat you out of house OR home.
Plants/Decor: Sturdy plastics will work. Root-looking pieces of wood will decorate and stay in one place (usually).
Word: Red-tail catfish
make great specimen fish. However,
since the largest red-tail catfish caught on a hook and line weighed 97
pounds, few normal people should attempt to keep them.
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